Get ready to discover the April Fools Festival!

Those of you with a love for comedy and those who enjoy seeing emerging new talent will be delighted to welcome the brand new April Fools Festival.

Created and curated by rising physical comedy star Luke Rollason, he put together the festival to help newer performers find their audiences.

Luke says “Whilst on break from live performance in order to concentrate on becoming famous, I’ve been working on creating opportunities for new unusual comedians. Programming a festival turned out to be way, way harder than I thought.”

“April Fools Festival celebrates the most creative new voices in the biz, featuring their most madly ambitious new ideas.”

A two-day celebration of the most creative new voices in comedy today, April Fools features rising stars of the alternative scene running riot at the OSO, situated by the beautiful Barnes Pond in London.

It’s a comedy festival with dinosaur hunters, silent bank robberies, tiny big tops, bursting bodices and a slapstick battle royale… not to mention a fête of surreal stalls and stupid sports outdoors and in the theatre foyer.

Curated in association with OSO Arts Centre.

For more details and ticket information see the OSO website here

Luke Rollason. His hair has applied for settled status (pending).

New biography of legendary Fred Karno thrills Music Hall fans

David Crump’s new biography of comedy fountainhead Fred Karno is no light read. At 600 pages, it can certainly claim to be one of the biggest biographies in recent years.

Karno is the man who created and drove the comedy troupe which fostered the talents of Stan Laurel, Charlie Chaplin and countless other comedy greats. It’s a fascinating story which crosses time, continents, with countless highs and lows. But then Karno’s is a story worth telling. And this book is quite a labour of love, having taken Crump ten years to complete. Researching, identifying and cataloguing the 211 illustrations must have been a mammoth task in itself.

In Fred Karno: The Legend Behind The Laughter, published on November 5th, Crump has properly done the research legwork to reveal as much as humanly possible about the man, his genius, follies, fortunes and foibles. Highly recommended, it’s available now and would make the perfect present for any Music Hall fan.

More information below from publisher Brewin Books.

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Discover the progress at Walthamstow Granada’s Open Day

On Thursday July 1st you are invited to find out about the progress that is being made with the Walthamstow Granada, the only surviving theatre in the London Borough of Waltham Forest.

A couple of years ago, after a long history of neglect and decay, the historic cinema was purchased by the Council and set on a track to be brought back to life as a comedy/cabaret and mixed use entertainment space, run by the Soho Theatre, who have developed for themselves an enviable track record in mixed entertainment management.

As part of the E17 Art Trail 2021, visitors are invited to discuss the progress and prospects for this historic Grade II-listed venue.

Visitors are welcome between 5pm and 7pm at The Tramworks, Hatherley Mews, Walthamstow, E17 4QP.

Read more about the Soho Theatre’s management plans here


SYDNEY AND THE OLD GIRL plays at Park Theatre until November 30th. Details and tickets here

IN BRIEF Well-played toxic comedy three-hander leaves a bitter aftertaste

A wheelchair-bound mother in her tatty house watches her twitchy, jowly blancmange of a son trying to mend her ancient telly. The atmosphere of mutual loathing is palpable. And yet it is also funny, as played by the inimitable Miriam Margolyes and Mark Hadfield, and written by Eugene O’ Hare.

Here are two desperately lonely people who have fallen through the social fabric, forced together by circumstance, hating yet needing each other. As their bitchy ping-pong continues, we slowly fill in the causes of this dysfunctional relationship. There is much pain in their mutual histories, touched on but not dwelt. Disability, abuse, death, ignorance, fear, guilt and shame have all played their part in sculpting their current grim coexistence

As the novelty of the bitch-fest starts to produce diminishing returns, the plot thankfully kicks in, which concerns Mum Nell’s inheritance and what becomes of it. Conspiring with care nurse Marion, Nell cruelly snubs her son Sydney to leave all her worldly goods to charity. Or so she thinks…

When the dynamics of the trio changes, Nell and Sydney find that they have something in common to hate that surprisingly leads to an outbreak of civility. But unexpected events scupper this, making it a short-lived truce.

Margolyes is always a delight to watch at work; here, as Nell, her beady eyes dark with a thirst for any tiny victory in these microscopic power-games, she’s about as cuddly as a rattlesnake. Her scenes with Marion are sly and gently manipulative, and Margolyes brings all her considerable talents to this mind-gaming old woman.

Mark Hadfield is an ideal foil to Margolyes- highly watchable as damaged son Sydney, from his edginess to his drinking to his overwhelming sadness. His disabling uneasiness with people is hilariously illustrated in a deeply uncomfortable “chat” sequence with Marion where he unsuccessfully attempts to mask his fear, loneliness and ingrained racism.

Vivien Parry as Irish carer Marion is all religion, care and concern, a Mother to the Mother and whose good-hearted nature is ripe for exploitation; who is used so badly and makes us feel for her in a detailed performance.

All three make a terrific ensemble, with long passages of monologue and dialogue expertly navigated by each.

Eugene O’ Hare’s jagged, tricky dialogue is a minefield of timing, with misunderstandings (deliberate or otherwise) and tiny trips in communication peppering the text, well executed under Philip Breen’s direction.

I was reminded several times of the Galton and Simpson classic TV show Steptoe and Son which had a similar dynamic between father and son; however this play is much darker, which in many ways works against its appeal, for O’Hare’s characters are hard to care about in any sense. Nevertheless, for me, the three performances make it worth seeing.

SYDNEY AND THE OLD GIRL plays at Park Theatre until November 30th. Details and tickets here

Edinburgh Comedy Awards 2019

Congratulations to the nominees and winners of the 39th year of the Edinburgh Comedy Awards now sponsored by TV channel Dave.

Best Comedy Show was won by Jordan Brookes for his show I’VE GOT NOTHING.

Best Newcomer was won by Catherine Cohen for her show THE TWIST…? SHE’S GORGEOUS.

The Panel Award went to Jessica Brough, Founder of Fringe of Colour.

Well done to all the nominees who made up very talented shortlists.

How amazing to think that next year will be the Award’s 40th anniversary.

I was very privileged to be a judge on these Awards, then sponsored by Perrier, in 1985. That year’s winner were a brilliant group called Complicité. And look what happened to them!

Find out more about Dave’s Edinburgh Comedy Awards at their website here